Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum)

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Lords and ladies in flower
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Lords and ladies fact file

Lords and ladies description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderArales
FamilyAraceae
GenusArum

Wild arum or lords and ladies (just one of this abundant plant’s local names), has a striking appearance when in flower. From amongst the shiny-green, black-speckled, arrow-shaped leaves, arises a tall slender cowl. This opens on one side to reveal a slender purple spike. This ‘spadix’ is the true flower of the wild arum, and it gave rise to another of the plant’s local names ‘cuckoo pint’. This derives from the time of the flower’s appearance – usually with the first cuckoos – whilst ‘pint’ (once pronounced to rhyme with ‘mint’) is an Old English slang for ‘pintle’, meaning penis.

Also known as
cuckoo pint, wild arum.
Size
Height: 30 – 50 cm
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Lords and ladies biology

Lords and ladies flowers in April through to May, and is a perennial, growing from a tuber underground. In autumn, it produces a cluster of dark orange berries grouped together at the top of a stem.

Wild arum is poisonous and it is better to avoid contact with it. However, in earlier times, the roots were used as a substitute for arrowroot although it has a bitter taste. The roots were more commonly used as a source of starch for collars and ruffs, even though the toxic juice left the poor laundresses’ hands terribly blistered.

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Lords and ladies range

Lords and ladies is very common across most of the British Isles, being absent only from North Scotland. It also occurs frequently in Europe.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Lords and ladies habitat

This species is found in woods and along shaded ditches and hedgerows on calcareous soil.

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Lords and ladies status

Very common in the UK

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Lords and ladies threats

Lords and ladies is a very common plant and not considered at threat.

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Lords and ladies conservation

As this species is common across most of its range, there are currently no conservation programmes associated with it.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Authentication

Information supplied by English Nature.

http://www.english-nature.org.uk

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Glossary

Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
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References

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Image credit

Lords and ladies in flower  
Lords and ladies in flower

© Mornee R. Button

Mornee Button
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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